unedited sept tahoe mt. news story:
By Kathryn Reed
Academic gains are being met throughout much of Lake Tahoe Unified. The problem is the bar is so high district administrators don’t think they or most districts will ever reach the goals outlined in the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
With the Sept. 4 release of the Academic Performance Index and Adequate Yearly Progress reports, LTUSD is doing OK. Every school but South Tahoe Middle School met its API goal – a state requirement. STMS was off by 10 points this year, but had gained 60 points the prior year.
Statewide, 53 percent of the schools made API growth targets in English language arts and math.
LTUSD’s goal is to have students at grade level, especially as fifth-graders transition to the middle school and when eighth-graders move to the high school.
“Where we are really positive is this year our full day kindergarten kids are in second grade and they are performing at grade level. That extra time in kindergarten and preppie K made a big difference,” Superintendent Jim Tarwater said.
The API index ranges from 200 to 1,000, with 800 being the goal. Districtwide, LTUSD went from 736 to 741. The district met the state’s goal of a five point gain.
AYP is the federal component of the standardized tests that are taken each spring. Those goals are a bit more unattainable because of including English learners and special education students in the total mix. NCLB says by 2014 most students should be performing at proficient or advanced.
Tarwater said it’s an unrealistic goal.
“Giving kids impossible goals to make is not what we do. And you should not do it to educators,” he said.
Bijou and STMS are now in their fifth year of being program improvement schools. PI means a school is not hitting the federal mark. Tahoe Valley and Sierra House elementary schools are in their first year. The district is in its second year.
Even though the schools and district could be taken over by the state if the performance continues this way, Tarwater doubts that will happen when nearly 1,000 schools are in the same boat. He predicts most of the state will end up PI.
Nonetheless, teachers and administrators have been a road of academic rigor for several years. The Quality Education Investment Act that brings money to Bijou pays for smaller class sizes in grades four and five.
Also at that school is a governance team consisting of Tarwater, Principal Karen Tinlin and teachers.
At the middle school, Read 180 and other programs have been instituted. Kids who are behind two grade levels or more are getting intensive extra hands-on attention.
Tarwater points to the API improvements as proof that the district is faring well academically.
“To me the API is the best that California uses. We are starting to move (forward),” Tarwater said. “The feds with the AYP is ridiculous.”